DIY cornice boards — with no L-brackets

When we closed on this house nine years ago, my husband S and I hugged each other with glee, thinking that it was move-in ready. I believe the exact words were something to the effect of “…and we won’t have to do a thing to it.”

Famous last words.

At this point, we’ve changed nearly every room in this house at least once. If we haven’t altered something, it’s only because we haven’t got that far on our DIY to-do list yet.

Home improvement and I have a twitchy relationship. I really, really, really want something done now, and then about 4 hours into it, I’m over it already. Suffice it to say, some projects don’t get done in 4 hours, and so they linger like garlic breath on a date.

Our living room/dining room has a bank of six windows that look out onto our back yard. When we moved in, the window treatments consisted of three large, white-ish plastic roller shades that had definitely seen better days. One by one, the shades disintegrated, leaving us to boil in the hot, bright summer sun with no respite.

I priced out window treatments and realized that I wanted our children to have a college fund more than fancy-pants blinds. And so being the cheap resourceful gal I am, I needed to step it up and make them. Or more correctly — I would have the vision for them and then beg S for help.

It’s been so long since I made the Roman shades I can’t even remember how I did it. Thankfully, there are wonderful tutorials here and here, if you’re looking for a how-to on those blinds.

I always meant to finish the top of them with cornices, but somehow once the basic blinds were up and the sun was out of my eyes, it didn’t matter so much. I kept thinking I’d get to it when I had time. That was seven years ago.

But lately, the lack of cornices has been bothering me. I can’t explain it other than it’s cold outside which means that I’m in the house more, so I keep noticing that this project still isn’t done.

Apparently, it’s been bugging S too, because he mentioned that he’d really like to get this one in the “done” column. And before you could say “Home Depot,” we were pulling out the extra fabric that I’d saved all these years and eyeing boards to see if they were warped or not.

Rather than using L-brackets — as every other instruction guide/DIY site will tell you to do — S came up with an ingenious way to attach the cornice boards above the windows. Here’s how he did it.

cornice board hardwareWhat you need:

  • 1×6″ boards, measuring 8-12″ longer than the desired width above your window
  • heavy duty eye-screws
  • heavy duty hooks
  • staple gun and staples
  • scissors
  • tape measure
  • heavy fabric
  • drill and drill bits
  • chop saw (or some sort of hand saw)

1. Figure out where you want the cornice board above the window — specifically, how far from the ceiling do you want the top of the cornice to be. Add 1 inch. Cut a stencil out of a spare piece of wood which you will use to measure down from the ceiling to mark the hooks. (This is especially important if you are trying to align the tops of two or more cornices on side-by-side windows.)

2. Measure how far you want the cornice board to extend past the window frame. Do it again just to be sure of your measurement (ask me how I know this). Mark and cut the board to this length.

3. Determine how many hooks per window you want. We used this as a rule of thumb: Count one hook 12 inches in from either side of the board and no more than 18 inches in between hooks. That should give you an idea of how many hooks you’ll need to hang each cornice.

4. Using your stencil, mark where you want your hooks to go above the window (applying the same rule of thumb in Step 2). Drill pilot holes and screw in hooks. Measure to ensure that all the hooks extend roughly the same distance from the wall.

cornice hooks

5. Rest the board on the hooks, centering it across the window. Mark where the hooks fall on the board.

tic marks for eye screws

6. On the board, measure 1 inch from the top of the board. Draw a horizontal line through your 1-inch measures, forming a cross with the hook marks.

7. At those crosses, drill pilot holes in the board for the eye screws. Try to make sure you don’t drill all the way through the board. Screw in the eye screws, ensuring that they are roughly the same across the board.

aligning center seam

8. Put the board up, placing the eye-screws on the hooks. Measure the side pieces. Cut pieces of wood to fill in the gap on the sides of the cornice. Screw in these side boards.

affixing sides to cornice

9. Remove board. Cut fabric to size, leaving room to wrap it around the board on all sides. Staple into place.

stapling fabric to board

wrapping the corners

10. Put board back above window, aligning hooks and eyes. Stand back and admire.

final fit 2

1st cornice board up

finished cornices

It may seem like a lot of work to do it this way, but the advantages to this method are:

  • you don’t have to kill yourself trying to screw in L-brackets to the walls;
  • you can fit your cornice board a little closer to the sides of the window; and
  • you can remove them easily.

Between you and me, I have a yen to change things up now and again. This way, I won’t have to whine/nag/wheedle S to redo the cornices that we just put up; I can simply remove them from the hooks, rip off this fabric, and staple in something new and fabulous. (Breathe, S, breathe. I’m not planning to do that within the next, say, six months or so….).

I liked the ones upstairs so much, I may have asked S and the kids to help me make a few more for the family room windows.

familyroomcornices

Isn’t that the happiest-looking window treatment you’ve ever seen?

I believe they are now completely over making cornice boards. Bet they’re going to love me when I suggest that we should make curtains for E and M’s rooms…

About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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29 Responses to DIY cornice boards — with no L-brackets

  1. Micha says:

    Way to go, DIY-ers!

  2. Cul de Sac says:

    I love it when people think outside de (cornice) box!

  3. The window treatments look amazing! I have almost zero patience for DIY stuff. I want it done quickly, but it never seems to work that way for me.

    • I always think that any DIY project is going to be a snap and we’ll be done in two hours. One would think that I’d get the clue that this NEVER happens, but I don’t. Must be some sort of beta-blocker in my brain that blots out the memories of DIY projects of the past…. Someday I’ll learn. :)

  4. Did you have trouble with the weight? Did any of your hooks hit studs? Your method would make cleaning SO much easier, and I like your thinking ahead for changing things up! Thanks!

    • Great questions!

      1) The weight of the board wasn’t a problem for those hooks. They are pretty industrial and they screwed into solid wood, which leads me to your next question.

      2) In our house, the builders put extra framing around the windows so there’s a solid piece of wood to screw into. Downstairs in our family room, the entire area above the patio door is ALL solid wood so we were able to put the hooks wherever we pleased. (How we discovered that fun fact about the patio door is a DIY home improvement cautionary tale in and of itself, but I’ll save that story for another time.)

      Because you position the hooks first above the windows, you can shift them to where the studs are hiding in your walls. It definitely allows for more flexibility in putting them up.

      Making them easy to take down to clean was important for me. And I’ve also learned the hard way that I need to think of my “redecorating strategy” before I start any project. :) Just makes life easier, you know?

      • Thanks, I’m definitely keeping this in mind for my next window treatment. Again, thanks for the additional details.

      • Hope it helps! I think it might be a case of being in the house too long over this long winter, but I’m looking at all our window treatments and thinking we should change them all to these cornices! Of course, my husband blanched a little when I mentioned it… :)

  5. CTW says:

    Nice work, Joan — and S! Enjoy your new views!

  6. mtetar says:

    Thank you so much for this DIY, Joan! I always wanted this type of Window Treatment, but they can be costly depending on where, contractor, materials, etc. I chose for me the cheapest version by making valance, and a couple of tmes had custom made valance along with matching drapes only for my Livingroom. Again, thanks, and Be Blessed, http://projectsbyMtetar.wordpress.com

  7. Time With Thea says:

    I love, love, love this. Thank you for sharing this! ~Thea

  8. Love this idea, and the most important thing is this project is in the “done” column!!

  9. Oh! Great idea Joan! :-) love it!

  10. thebeadden says:

    How clever! Love it!

    • Thanks so much! We’ve fussed with some L-brackets on an existing cornice over a bedroom window before, and this way seems to me to be much less awkward to put one up and far easier to change it out.

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